© Jean Ayissi, AFP | Marc Riboud stands before his iconic “flower girl” snap at the Maison européenne de la photographie in Paris on March 25, 2004

Renowned French photojournalist Marc Riboud, whose 1967 snap of a protester confronting US soldiers with a flower came to define the anti-war movement, has died aged 93 after a long illness.

The iconic photo of the young “flower power” girl helped shift public opinion against the Vietnam War. It also made its author a household name in the trade.

“She was saying to them, ‘But I’m not hurting you, so you won’t hurt me. We’re the same age. We’re not going to hit each other’,” Riboud later said, reflecting on the moment he took the famous snap.

“It was fantastic, actually, what she was saying — straight from her heart. With just a flower,” he added.

The subject of the “flower power” shot, Jan Rose Kasmir, said on hearing the news of his death on Facebook that she had lost touch with Riboud after he began suffering from dementia around six years ago, but could “still hear his wonderful resonant voice”.

Paris, 1953. Courtesy of the Bureau Marc Riboud

The French photographer, equally famed for a 1953 picture of a workman painting the Eiffel Tower high above the Paris skyline, passed away on Tuesday after a long illness, his family said.

A master of black-and-white imagery, Riboud joined the prestigious Magnum agency at the invitation of its founders, photography greats Henri-Cartier Bresson and Robert Capa.

Riboud, whose shots appeared in top magazines such as Look, Life, Stern and Paris Match, was among few the photographers who managed to enter North Vietnam in the late 1960s.

In 1957 he became one of the first Europeans to travel in Communist China.

Riboud was the president of Magnum from 1974 to 1976, but he quit the group in 1979 saying he “didn’t like the competition for glory” that it fostered.

Lauded for his sensitivity towards his subjects, Riboud said he took pictures “like a musician hums”.

A passion for Asia

Born on June 24, 1923, near the eastern city of Lyon to a well-off family, Riboud had six siblings including his brother Antoine, founder of the Danone food giant who died in 2002.

He began snapping photos at age 14 with a Vest Pocket Kodak given to him by his father.

Riboud was active in the French Resistance during World War II, then trained as an engineer and worked at a factory before devoting himself entirely to photography.

Riboud’s passion would take him across Asia, with Japan inspiring his first of around 15 books, “Women of Japan”.

He chronicled developments in China over four decades, also working in Algeria and sub-Saharan Africa.

Riboud “was a great photographer, poet and humanist… with a unique signature: a respect and love for people who bore witness to their daily lives and suffering around the world,” said Alain Genestar, former editor of Paris Match.

Riboud’s work in Cuba in 1963, including a portrait of Fidel Castro on the eve of the assassination of US president John F Kennedy, is the subject of the ‘Visa pour l’Image’ photojournalism festival that opened Saturday in the southern French town of Perpignan.

“He was a great humanist and a great guy,” festival director Jean-Francois Leroy told AFP. “Many photographers were inspired by him without ever equalling him.”

Washington, 1967. Courtesy of the Bureau Marc Riboud.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)


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